On Wednesday, March 20th, the Texas Retailers Association held their biennial Texas Retailers Lobby Day. Members of the Texas Retailers Association visited Austin, Texas to meet with Members of the Texas Legislature about the issues that affect the retail industry. Attendees started their day with breakfast, a briefing on the major issues, and a lesson on “How to Lobby.” After being bused over to the State Capitol, retailers walked the halls, meeting with key legislators and their staff about SNAP Distribution, Wayfair, consistent employment regulations, and other issues that concern retailers and grocers. Members of TRA’s Executive Committee met with Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Attendees were encouraged to meet with their Representative and Senator as well. Click here to view some of the highlights from Texas Retailers Lobby Day 2019!
More than 3.5 million Texans will get their February SNAP benefits early because of the partial government shutdown.
The Texas Health and Human Services on Sunday announced that the February SNAP benefits will be issued early. The state said current SNAP recipients will get February benefits automatically loaded onto their Lone Star Cards by Jan. 20.
SNAP is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that offers food assistance to eligible low-income people and families. The program is often referred to as the government’s “food stamps.”
“We are relieved that the government shutdown won’t affect benefits for SNAP recipients in February,” said Celia Cole, CEO of non-profit Feeding Texas, in a news release.
Cole said any disruption in this assistance would “create immediate hardship for these households that could have lasting consequences.”
Cole said it is unclear if there will be funding in March if the shutdown continues.
The state said in a news release that “the federal government has alerted states that they can issue benefits until federal funds are no longer available; it is unclear from the federal government when that will occur.”
Gary Huddleston, a food retailing consultant for the Texas Retailers Association, said SNAP customers are important and any impact to their ability to get food would also “greatly affect a number of food retailers in North Texas.”
Huddleston said that like the state, retailers want families to know that they don’t have to use all of their benefits at once. In fact, the state is encouraging families to space out their purchases throughout February.
“This is a one-time exception and their benefits are available all through February,” Huddleston said.
The partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22 and impacts nine federal departments, means that 800,000 impacted federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay. They could be paid retroactively after lawmakers reach a compromise.
There are also federal contract workers impacted by the shutdown who are not getting paid and it is unclear if they will get back pay.
Nationwide, those federal and contract workers, along with families on SNAP benefits, are the focus of concerns for many food and anti-hunger advocates who worry their situation will grow more worrisome the longer the shutdown continues.
In North Texas, area food banks are prepared to respond to the needs of these populations.
“We have not quite seen the impact yet, but we want to be ready should the need present itself in a greater way. Hunger is an issue that is always there,” said Katherine Randall, interim director of marketing communications for the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
Randall said the Tarrant Area Food Bank partners with 270 food banks in North Texas. It has been reaching out to the 40 largest ones to monitor any impact on communities from the shutdown.
“We are reaching out to them to see if they are starting to see an increase in the need in their communities,” Randall said, adding that the agency will activate an internal response team to help families.
SNAP recipients can check benefit amounts at Your TexasBenefits.com or by calling the Lone Star Help Desk at 800-777-7EBT.
Texans who need additional food assistance should contact a local food bank or call 2-1-1 for help.
The State of Texas announced that February food benefits will be provided early to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients. This gives recipients more time to manage their resources during the government shutdown due to the uncertainty about future federal program funding.
SNAP Recipients will see funds on their Lone Star cards by January 20th. While SNAP recipients are encouraged to not make mass purchases and try to space their food purchases throughout the whole month of February, retailers should prepare for both cases. Roughly three and a half million people will be receiving their benefits early and retailers need to be prepared to accommodate mass crowds.
WIC benefits for February will be released as normal.
January 8, 2019
Dear Members of the Texas Legislature:
As the 86th session of the Texas Legislature convenes today, The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) congratulates each of you and extends best wishes for a successful session. Collectively, TRA represents more than 300,000 retail establishments and over 3.5 million jobs across the state. The association supports all levels of Texas retail including grocery stores, chains and single location small businesses.
TRA’s goal is to keep Texas “retail-friendly” and ensure that legislative action is taken to protect business owners so that they can continue to employ hardworking Texans and serve communities across Texas. As such, TRA’s legislative priorities for the 86th Texas Legislature are as follows:
- TRA supports a business-friendly regulatory environment. TRA member companies are regulated, licensed, inspected, and taxed by agencies in Texas and appreciate the Legislature’s efforts to continue to make Texas retail friendly. TRA supports regulation that is reasonable and allows our members to continue to provide excellent customer service, top quality products and continued business success in the retail industry. TRA appreciates the various approaches our membership takes to provide these services and supports their efforts to make those choices independently without unnecessary regulatory burdens imposed by either the state or local governments.
- TRA will support passing statewide legislation that would preempt local governments from unilaterally enacting negative local employment and labor laws mandating employer benefits, employer hiring practices, scheduling, and other daily operational business practices.
- Additionally, in light of the South Dakota v. Wayfair decision by the United States Supreme Court, TRA and its member-companies look forward to continuing to work with our state’s elected officials to implement any legislation, rules, and regulations in a way that reflects the spirit of the level playing field for all retailers envisioned by the Court’s ruling.
- TRA supports Texas customers and communities. All TRA members provide the best service to all of their customers and communities and do so in a variety of ways. Whether providing food, clothing and essential supplies during the recent hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters or providing school supplies and medication to those in need across the state, TRA’s members go above and beyond to support the customers that support their businesses. Our members coordinate closely with local, state and federal authorities in efforts to make sure our communities thrive throughout the year.
- TRA members participate in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) and want to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible to maximize customer experiences. Ensuring product availability to our customers while also allowing retailers to manage employees and inventories is essential in this process. To do so, TRA will advocate to broaden the SNAP distribution schedule from its current 15 days to 28 days. This will provide both customers and businesses with a more even and predictable shopping experiences across the state.
- TRA supports property tax relief. Retailers across Texas are subject to increasingly higher and higher property taxes, not only on their retail space but also on the inventories on their shelves. Texas business property taxes continue to serve as a significant disadvantage to the retail industry in our state. Inventory taxes stacked on top of ever rising taxes being assessed on our buildings drive costs up for our businesses and ultimately the customers we serve. Retail property across the state is unique in its position in the market and we support a regulatory framework that allows for accurate and fair valuation of that property.
- TRA supports inventory property tax relief and repeal. Texas is one of only a handful of states that allows local property taxes to be assessed on retail inventories. Those other states are not states with whom Texas normally competes for new business and economic development opportunities. Additionally, inventory property tax relief is not selective, it benefits large and small businesses equally and attracts greater investment in the Texas economy.
Again, TRA congratulates each of you as you begin the 86th session of the Legislature today, and we look forward to working with all of you to help keep Texas retail friendly. Please feel free to reach out to me, or any member of the TRA team, any time if we can be of assistance to you and your staffs.
Texas Retailers Association
AM 740 – KTRH
By Audrey Morton
As less retailers are opening new stores, U.S. mall owners are looking for new ways to fill the vacancies.
Some big name retailers are downsizing their store’s footprint—size, numbers, locations, which means malls and shopping centers might need to prepare for some store closures.
Texas Retailers Association President and CEO George Kelemen said shoppers still want to touch and see what they buy, and doesn’t see malls closing completely any time soon, it’s just the evolutionary nature of retail.
“Differently formatted shopping center, if you will, that’s definitely going to evolve and you’ll see some changes, and I think you’re seeing some of those that have happened over the last five years to the last or decade or so, and some of those will continue to evolve,” said Kelemen.
He says while e-commerce is driving some of the change, so is location, geography and changing demographics.
Kelemen said the retail industry is doing well, but is in transition.
“They may not necessarily be in a traditional kind of all-enclosed mall that we’ve had since the 60s, 70s and 80s. They may just take different shapes and forms,” said Kelemen.
He said these big name companies that are closing stores are not in financial distress, they’re still alive and well.
It’s reported that some malls are using co-working spaces, apartment complexes and health facilities to replace department stores.
MySA / San Antonio Express-News
Updated 2:29 pm CST, Friday, November 23, 2018
San Antonio consumers, fresh off Thanksgiving dinner, flocked to area malls and shopping centers Thursday night and early Friday to kick off what retail analysts say could be a record holiday shopping season.
Dozens of people lined up outside the H-E-B Plus store on South Zarzamora Street early Friday, wearing hoodies and hats in a misty drizzle. Some said they were hunting for gaming consoles and electronics, while others were hoping to snag discounted staples like pillows and cooking pots.
Shoppers hustled in when the doors opened at 6 a.m., loading high-definition TVs and Spurs gear into their carts. Employees hurried around, helping customers and checking aisles.
Oscar Garza, 41, and his son Alberto Garza woke up about 4:30 a.m. Friday to hit the stores. This was their fourth time shopping together on Black Friday, Oscar Garza said.
The pair picked out a mirror and earbuds, but Alberto Garza was intent on finding something dinosaur-related. The 4-year-old can recite the lengthy scientific dinosaur names, his father said. They planned to do more shopping in the weeks before Christmas.
On ExpressNews.com: Watch out: Online scammers are coming for you this holiday weekend
The discounts and prices this year are “about the same” as last year, said Gwen Edwards, 52. She thumbed through stacks of shirts in the kids’ section, looking for clothes for her grandchildren, and said she planned to stop at South Park Mall next.
Another shopper, Rudy Barbey, said he wasn’t there to bargain-hunt. The 68-year-old tries to exercise frequently and planned to walk around the store for about an hour while getting groceries. Barbey also shopped last Black Friday and said there seemed to be fewer people this year.
He was tempted by a discounted air fryer but ultimately decided to keep moving.
With an estimated 116 million shoppers, Black Friday is expected to be the busiest day for retailers this holiday weekend, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That’s a slight uptick from 115 million last year.
“There’s a huge social element to Black Friday,” Ana Serafin Smith, a federation spokeswoman said earlier this week.
On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio airport sets new passenger record ahead of holiday travel season
Retail sales could jump as much as 5 percent year-over-year, analysts have said: NRF projects receipts during the two-month shopping season of November and December could hit $721 billion — compared with $687.9 billion last year.
Much of that increase is expected to take place online. Adobe Analytics, which tracks online shopping, projected online sales could climb 15 percent from $108 billion last year to $124.1 billion this year. About a fifth of those sales are expected to take place between Gray Thursday and Cyber Monday.
A strong economy, low unemployment and effects of tax reform that could trickle down are some of the reasons George Kelemen, president and CEO of the Texas Retailers Association, anticipates a robust shopping season. The elections are also past, Kelemen said earlier this week.
Smith compared the holiday season to retailers’ version of the Super Bowl and the week of Thanksgiving to their halftime show. The focus over the years has shifted from an emphasis on Black Friday alone to five days of shop-’til-you-drop, she said. People are doing more research on the items they want and “the consumer has all the power” nowadays, Smith said.
One strategy that is paying off for retailers this season is giving customers the option to buy items online and pick them up in-store, she said. It’s not a new service, but its popularity is being driven by a bigger consumer population, Smith said.
Shopping together on Black Friday is somewhat of a tradition for Lee Coleman and her daughter. With several bags resting on the ground next to her, Coleman said she had found a scarf, a coat and other clothes at The Shops at La Cantera.
Discounts seem better this year, and many items were half off, Coleman said.
Asked whether this weekend will conclude her Christmas purchases, Coleman said the Friday excursion was “fun” shopping. She still has shopping to do and plans to look for some holiday gifts online.
On ExpressNews.com: Texas retail showing signs of strength heading into holiday shopping season
“It’s not as crazy” this year, said Misty Perez, 34, who arrived at South Park Mall about 8:30 a.m. Friday. She bought socks at Old Navy and jewelry at JCPenney, though the gaming console she was hoping to get at GameStop was sold out. Still, “I’m finding everything I wanted,” she said.
This weekend was the first time Anthony Alaniz, 20, and Victoria Alaniz, 19, have gone shopping on Black Friday. They stopped at several stores at the mall and said they were pleased with some of the deals.
“It is pretty crazy,” Victoria Alaniz said.
On Thursday, at least 100 shoppers lined up outside the Best Buy at Legacy Shopping Center just before the store opened at 5 p.m.
“I didn’t even want to come out for this honestly,” Jason Ellis, 34, said as he loaded his Chevrolet Colorado pickup with two ASUS computer monitors and an HP Omen Gaming Desktop computer tower, gifts for himself.
But Ellis said he saw the items were marked down by as much as 40 percent so he hopped in his truck after eating a Thanksgiving dinner of prime rib.
“We’re not big on turkey,” Ellis said.
Some people said they had either finished their holiday gift buying or planned to do so online. Thursday’s shopping trip will likely be his last for the season after wrapping up his Christmas shopping online last week, Ellis said.
When asked what he would do with the time he might’ve spent shopping in the coming weeks, Ellis said, “Deer hunting.”
Dustin and Lora Smith and their 10-year-old son Austin waited outside the Best Buy two hours before it opened Thursday, snatching up two televisions measuring 43 inches and 50 inches, a Samsung sound bar and an HP printer among other electronics, including some gifts for relatives.
“We wouldn’t have done this without eating Thanksgiving dinner,” Dustin Smith, 34, said, noting that Best Buy is the only store they physically visit to purchase gifts.
But the family plans to do the majority of their holiday shopping online, Dustin Smith said, primarily because they live an hour away in Canyon Lake.
Sisters Martha Bailey, 62, and Rose Alvarado, 57, waited outside GameStop at North Star Mall on Thursday for Alvarado’s daughter. They had two large Macy’s bags full of baby clothes, pants and a pair of Converse shoes among other clothes.
The sisters said shopping after Thanksgiving dinner is a bit of a tradition while the men in their family stay at home and watch football. Bailey and Alvarado said they started shopping at 5:30 p.m. and could go until 9 p.m., and by 6:30 p.m., Alvarado had already spent about $120 at Macy’s.
But Alvarado and Bailey said they each have more gift-buying to do after Thursday evening, which they plan to do in stores. Bailey said she’s heard horror stories from friends and relatives about trying to return items bought online.
“I like to come out here and see the people,” Alvarado said of shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. “It’s (shopping online) not the same.”
My SA/San Antonio Express-News
By Madison Iszler
As promotional emails flood your inbox and advertisements take over your social media feeds this weekend, watch out for scam artists.
About 164 million people plan to shop between Thanksgiving Day and Nov. 26, also known as Cyber Monday, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. They predict that 75 million will capitalize on digital deals on Cyber Monday.
People plan to spend more: Adobe Digital Insights predicts shoppers will shell out $23.4 billion online over the five-day holiday weekend, up 19.4 percent from last year. Online sales during Cyber Monday are projected to break records and reach an estimated $7.8 billion, a 17.6 percent uptick from 2017.
It’s a lucrative opportunity for cyber thieves, and “attackers will capitalize,” cyber security firm RiskIQ warned in a recent report. Phony mobile apps and websites will try to trick people into disclosing personal information and downloading harmful software, the report said.
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RiskIQ searched the term “Cyber Monday” in app stores and found that 4.6 percent of the 959 results were malicious. They also discovered more than 6,000 harmful apps pretending to be official sources for popular retailers.
To better protect themselves and their money, people should stick to app stores like Google’s and Apple’s and be wary of apps that ask for access to text messages, passwords and other information.
“Just because an app appears to have a good reputation doesn’t make it so. Rave reviews can be forged, and a high amount of downloads can simply indicate a threat actor was successful in fooling a lot of victims,” wrote the authors of the RiskIQ report. “Before downloading an app, be sure to take a look at the developer — if it’s not a brand you recognize or has a strange appearance or spelling, think twice.”
Related: Parents urged: know and avoid dangerous toys
Use encrypted websites, check your credit card statements and don’t buy from websites you’ve never heard of, “even if it has the one item you’ve been looking for,” said George Kelemen, president and CEO of the Texas Retailers Association. Parents should be aware of what purchases they might be making through gaming apps, he said.
“Use common sense,” Kelemen said.
Bret Piatt, CEO of San Antonio-based cyber security company Jungle Disk, warned people not to click on links in promotional emails.
Visit the retailer’s website directly instead, he said. Make sure the website you’re using to shop starts with “HTTPS” and has a lock symbol in the task bar, the Better Business Bureau cautions.
Use a credit card rather than a debit card when shopping because the former offers more protection, Piatt said. Shoppers can go a step further and get a pre-paid card for the amount they plan to spend or a card with lower limits.
When shopping online, have packages delivered to a place where someone can pick them up so a thief can’t grab them from outside your front door, he said.
“There will be people who are looking to go shopping on other people’s porches,” Piatt said.
Forty-two percent of those surveyed recently by consulting firm Deloitte said they had experienced a digital security breach. People are becoming more cognizant of the risks, said Matt Marsh, the firm’s retail sector leader.
“The public is becoming very aware of the importance of protecting their data,” he said. “It’s kind of happening to everybody.”
He advised people to be wary of using public WiFi or clicking on links in email promotions. Check the spelling of a website because cyber criminals will try to spoof sites, Marsh said.
Shoppers should be ware of buying from third-party vendors because there’s a higher risk of fraud, said Ana Serafin Smith, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
Wherever you shop, she recommended reading the fine print on return policies and checking what items are eligible to be returned.
“Do your research,” she said.
AM 740 – KTRH
By Audrey Morton
According to a study, holiday retail sales in the U.S. are expected to hit the $1 trillion mark for the first time this year. They claim this is six percent growth from last year, making it the “strongest growth since 2011”.
Texas Retailers Association President and CEO George Kelemen believes on a high end, that is possible.
“The forecast we’re seeing have us anywhere between three quarters of a trillion (dollars), so it’s like $750 billion, anything between that and a trillion, which would be significant because it would show a lot of confidence out there,” said Kelemen.
He added where you see things nationally are also playing out in Texas because of the great economy and low unemployment.
Kelemen said projections for holiday spending is indicator that the retail industry is strong and keeping up with a strong economy.
“The projects for this year are being forecast at anywhere between, like four and a half and five percent above last year, which was a great year, as well,” said Kelemen.
In-store sales are forecast to rise 4.4 percent year-on-year, while e-commerce sales are predicted to grow by 16.6 percent.
The study found that e-commerce will capture 12.3 percent of the total sales figure this year and online retail sales will rise 16.6 percent from the previous year, to $123.73 billion.
By Katie Lobosco, CNN Business
New York (CNN)- American importers can ask for an exemption from President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, and his first two rounds of tariffs on Chinese goods.
But they’re stuck paying duties if a product they import from China was included in Trump’s most recent round of tariffs imposed in September, which covered $200 billion worth of goods including food seasonings, hats, furniture, network routers and industrial machine parts.
The process to request an exemption has not yet been set up by the administration, nearly a month later, despite a new plea from 167 members of Congress.
“The lack of such a process for this most recent list is a glaring omission, particularly given its size in relation to the first two lists,” the bipartisan group of House members wrote in a letter sent to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week.
The US Trade Representative’s Office tells CNN that it has no announcement about opening up the exclusion process at this time. For the previous two rounds of tariffs on Chinese goods, USTR announced that they would establish an exclusion process at least a week before the tariffs took effect.
“It would be nice to have the ability to speak for our industry, to explain how we don’t have an easy option to switch production somewhere else,” said Tiffany Zarfas Williams, who owns the Luggage Shop of Lubbock with her husband in Texas.
Zarfas Williams estimates that 84% of the products currently in the store come from China, and most of them — including all backpacks, briefcases and luggage — have been hit with a 10% tariff.
She said that her biggest vendor has already raised prices, and that she’s had to pass that on to her customers.
Trump has repeatedly suggested that China pays the tariffs, saying they will bring “a lot of money” into US coffers. But tariffs imposed on foreign goods work by making those products more expensive, evening the playing field for similar items made domestically — and they’re paid for by American importers, putting those businesses at risk of seeing profits shrink or folding altogether.
“Some companies can absorb a 10% tariff, but for others a 10% increase would eat up their entire profit,” said Tom Gould, senior director of customs and international trade at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.
“They’re absolutely frustrated that this exclusion process isn’t in place,” he said.
Renegotiating trade practices has become a central tenet of Trump’s presidency. He pushed ahead with tariffs even at the cost of losing his top economic adviser Gary Cohn, who resigned in the wake of a fierce disagreement over tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Trump has argued that his tariffs have successfully pressured countries to negotiate. Earlier this month, he mocked politicians opposed to tariffs as “babies,” during remarks about the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, which he said would not have happened without the tariffs.
But negotiations with China stalled after the latest round of tariffs went into effect.
His administration imposed a 25% tariff on $34 billion of Chinese goods in July and $16 billion of goods in August. The latest round of China tariffs started at a 10% rate and is set to increase to 25% at the end of the year.
On a call with reporters last month, a USTR official noted that the proposed list of goods for this round came out in July, giving businesses almost six months to prepare before the tariff would go to 25%.
The Trump administration wants to pressure China to stop engaging in what it calls unfair trading practices, but created the exclusion process to keep the duties from putting American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
While the exclusion process is available to importers affected by the first two rounds of tariffs on Chinese goods, it has not been a quick process for businesses seeking relief.
None of the roughly 3,000 exclusion requests submitted to USTR to date have been granted. About 500 have been denied, according to USTR documents.
When evaluating a request, USTR considers whether the item is available only from China, whether the tariff would cause “severe economic harm” to the company, and whether the particular product is strategically important to China’s industrial programs.
An exclusion only offers relief for one year, but it could give a business time to find an alternate supplier. That process is likely to take several months, or longer if a new factory has to be set up outside China.
Some industries avoided the issue entirely after USTR removed nearly 300 items, including smartwatches, bike helmets, and highchairs, from the latest list following a public comment period held before they took effect.
Winners included Apple, which was spared after lobbying to remove some items. It narrowly missed having to pay duties on Apple Watches and Air Pods.
But Zarfas Williams doesn’t have the resources of a major company like Apple.
“I feel like we’ll be OK through Christmas. But if the tariff goes up to 25% on January 1, that will be a whole different story,” Zarfas Williams said.
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